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Salmonellosis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Alena Klochko, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
Updated: Oct 08, 2015

Medical Care

Salmonella gastroenteritis is usually a self-limiting disease. Fluid and electrolyte replacement may be indicated in severe cases. Because antibiotics do not appear to shorten the duration of symptoms and may actually prolong the duration of convalescent carriage, they are not routinely used to treat uncomplicated nontyphoidal Salmonella gastroenteritis. Current recommendations are that antibiotics be reserved for patients with severe disease or patients who are at a high risk for invasive disease .

Historically, recommended regimens for the treatment of typhoid fever included ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, or chloramphenicol. Emerging drug resistance over the past 20 years has limited the usefulness of these antibiotics. Presently, quinolone, macrolide, and third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics are preferred for empiric therapy pending sensitivities. Unfortunately, sensitivity to quinolones has been steadily declining, and these are no longer fool-proof agents for typhoid fever. A growing rate of resistance of nontyphoidal salmonella to nalidixic acid and ceftriaxone has been reported.[36]

Clinical data suggested reduced effectiveness of quinolone therapy in patients with nalidixic acid-resistant Salmonella strains.[37] A study of more than 1000 stored Salmonella isolates from Finland has confirmed earlier data that showed that resistance to nalidixic acid by means of disk diffusion is a sensitive and specific method of screening Salmonella isolates for reduced susceptibility to fluoroquinolones.[38]

Although uncommon in the United States, resistance to quinolone antibiotics among typhoidal and nontyphoidal salmonellae is increasingly common elsewhere. In one 22-year surveillance study in Spain, the prevalence of nalidixic acid resistance increased almost 80-fold to 38.5%.

In a recent review of US data from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, 58% of S typhimurium isolates isolated between 1997 and 1998 were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and 3 multidrug-resistant strains (resistant to ≥5 antibiotics) accounted for 74% of isolates.

The recent decline in prevalence of chloramphenicol resistance in many endemic areas has led to reconsideration of its use as an alternative to newer-generation fluoroquinolones or azithromycin.

There are widespread concerns about aplastic anemia with chloramphenicol and dysglycemia with gatifloxacin. In most developed settings, there are also cautions or specific constraints about the use of fluoroquinolones in children and pregnant or nursing mothers, because of potential cartilage toxicities; other adverse effects such as photosensitivity, electrocardiographic abnormalities, and tendinopathies largely affect elderly patients with concomitant problems such as renal impairment.[39]

Azithromycin is likely to be the preferred empirical treatment, often given together with ceftriaxone, in developed countries where chloramphenicol is usually reserved for life-threatening situations, for which no alternatives are available, and physicians are reluctant to use fluoroquinolones in children and lack easy access to gatifloxacin.[39]

In an endemic area such as Nepal, gatifloxacin is as effective as chloramphenicol in ambulatory young patients, and adherence to treatment is improved by the shorter duration and smaller number of tablets in the gatifloxacin regimen.[39]

Salmonella bacteremia is generally treated with a single bactericidal drug for 10-14 days. Given the resistance trends, life-threatening infections should be treated with both a third-generation cephalosporin and a fluoroquinolone until the susceptibilities of antimicrobial agents are known.[2]

If endocarditis or infectious arteritis is documented, urgent surgical treatment is usually necessary. Antimicrobial therapy for endovascular infections should be continued for a minimum of 6 weeks after successful surgery.

Years of therapy might be needed when surgery is not possible (eg, retained prosthetic devices, chronic bone and joint infections).[2]

For proven or possible CNS involvement, high-dose ceftriaxone would be the best choice for optimal penetration of the blood-brain barrier.[2]

Treatment of salmonella infection in pregnancy is controversial, and antibiotic therapy should be reserved for cases of invasive disease, using amoxicillin or cephalosporin.[40] Case reports describe of fetal loss in the setting of disseminated Salmonella infection.[41, 40]


Surgical Care

Typhoid fever is occasionally complicated by intestinal perforation or hemorrhage, cholecystitis, endocarditis, arteritis, osteomyelitis, or soft-tissue abscess formation, necessitating surgical intervention.

Long-term S typhi carriage (usually with the gallbladder as the reservoir) may necessitate cholecystectomy.

Splenectomy may be required for splenic abscesses.[2]

Surgical care dramatically improves the likelihood of survival in patients with endarteritis, especially that which involves abdominal aorta. A review of 148 cases from 1948-1999 found a 62% survival rate in all patients treated with combined surgical and medical therapy and a 77% survival rate in 30 patients who were able to undergo extra-abdominal bypass with construction of an axillobifemoral graft.[42, 43]



Consultation with an infectious disease specialist should sought in cases of bacteremia, endovascular infections, CNS infections, and whenever typhoid fever is a strong possibility, as well as when antimicrobial resistance is suspected or documented.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Alena Klochko, MD Infectious Disease Physician, Orlando Health, Florida

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Mark R Wallace, MD, FACP, FIDSA Clinical Professor of Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Central Florida College of Medicine

Mark R Wallace, MD, FACP, FIDSA is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, International AIDS Society, Florida Infectious Diseases Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

John L Brusch, MD, FACP Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Consulting Staff, Department of Medicine and Infectious Disease Service, Cambridge Health Alliance

John L Brusch, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD David Ross Boyd Professor and Chairman, Department of Medicine, Stewart G Wolf Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center; Master of the American College of Physicians; Fellow, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Medical Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of Professors of Medicine, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Mary D Nettleman, MD, MS MACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Mary D Nettleman, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Association of Professors of Medicine, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society of General Internal Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author Michael Zapor, MD, PhD, and previous coauthor David P Dooley, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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Rose spots on abdomen of a patient with typhoid fever due to the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Courtesy of CDC/Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Charles N. Farmer.
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